2018 Campaign Update: Progressive Firebrand Alan Grayson Returns

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Alan Grayson is coming back. We’re all just waiting for whom he decides to challenge. Losing an unusually uneventful race for the U.S. Senate to Patrick Murphy, after the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee swooped in to tip the scales in conservative Murphy’s favor, Grayson has kept a low-profile as of late. Well, low for Grayson.

He’s still active on social media, continues to make his way onto TV screens, and recently hilariously debated a fake Donald Trump (a Trump impersonator) at several campaign events. He’s never changing, and that may be good for the body politic. Last year he raised over $300,000 from his massive online fundraising base, and he arbitrarily designated his campaign district as Dan Webster’s in his FEC filings. But that’s not likely to happen as Grayson has virtually no shot to win in Webster’s district.  

Grayson is free to run in any Florida district, though.  Grayson’s three terms in the House are the most for any Democrat in the region since Bill Nelson, he was the only Democrat elected to represent downtown Orlando from 1974 to 2008, he has represented voters from Ocala to Yeehaw Junction, and his name recognition is sky-high.  He has an adoring national progressive base, with more than 100,000 campaign donors. He passed more legislation than any other member of Congress. Grayson also has a lot to show locally for his time in office, like the VA Hospital, the extension of SunRail, and big increases in federal funding in his district.

Many believe that  he has his eyes set on his old seat, which has now a Democratic incumbent. Freshman Representative Darren Soto is the likely target, as Soto took over for Grayson when Alan decided to run for Senate. In 2016, Soto squeaked by in a four-way primary, with just 37% of the vote against three opponents who had never run for office before.  Soto isn’t a fundraising lightweight, though. He notched over $400,000 last year, 65% of it from corporate special interest PACs, and he continues to raise money.

If Grayson challenges Soto, it would be an interesting race to watch.  One website said that a poll showed Grayson 65%, Soto 35%, but it wouldn’t necessarily be an easy win for Grayson. Soto  had many conserative positions in the Florida Legislature, drawing an “A” rating from the NRA and voting for “docs vs. Glocks,” a $200 fee from women seeking protection from domestic violence and mandatory ‘transvaginal ultrasound’ for women seeking an abortion. But Soto has been endorsed by progressives in the party and has turned left since exiting the State Senate.  Still, Soto’s votes against Trump impeachment, the issue of the Dreamers disappearing after Nancy Pelosi’s impassioned eight-hour speech on the Dreamers’ behalf and his lack of any noticeable accomplishments will weigh against him. Moreover, on Soto’s watch, Congress made hurricane relief to Puerto Rico loans rather than grants, conditioned relief on Puerto Rico running out of money,  the relief effort mishaps, ignoring Puerto Rico’s vote on statehood and even raised taxes on Puerto Rico corporations, which could be and issue with Soto’s Puerto Rican constituents.

The other potential opponent who could be in Grayson’s mind is Val Demings.  Before Congressional lines were redrawn, Grayson represented virtually all of Demings’ district.

A freshman like Soto, Demings has raised a formidable amount of money, over $400,000. But she  has cast a few votes that Grayson can tackle.

She voted yes for H.R. 1865, a bill purported to target online sex trafficking but which ended up wrapping sex workers into the mix. Because of its language, some on the Left believe it is a way under federal law to go after men and women who consent to working in this profession.

Demings also voted yes to give intelligence agencies the ability to spy on foreigners without a warrant. It is an expansion of the surveillance state, and further erosion of American’s right to privacy.  And Demings, like Soto and Murphy, cannot point to any tangible accomplishment in office.

By challenging Demings, Grayson has the chance to carve out a space that Demings doesn’t occupy, and peel voters away from her. If he does plan to run against an incumbent Democrat, Demings may be the easiest target for Grayson.

Even so, she’s not going to be easy to beat, and will certainly try to drag some of Grayson’s skeletons out of the closet.  But it would be a true Left-Right battle that Florida Democratic primary voters rarely get to see.

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Leon Aprile is a pseudonym for different freelance writers that submit articles to OPO.

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